The White Phoenix Litclub at SlovoNovo 2021

Diary notes of a trip of writers from the Paris-based literary club The White Phoenix to the SlovoNovo 2021 forum, held in Budva (Montenegro) from 24 to 30 September 2021.

Olga de Benoist (writer, president of The White Phoenix literary club)

September 24, 2021 (Facebook post)

With great adventures, I finally arrived at the SlovoNovo festival, which is now taking place in Montenegro. We are participating with our Paris-based literary club, The White Phoenix Tales, in a series of performances and roundtables on contemporary art in emigration.

Actually, I thought I wouldn’t make it, because I missed my flight and had to buy a new plane ticket late at night, which also happened to be the last one. I arrived this morning. Then the taxi driver and I couldn’t find my hotel, he was circling around Budva for at least 40 minutes until I turned on my GPS and we found it in a little nook. In the end, the 2 minutes of roaming cost me 3 times the price of the taxi itself. And I was late for the round table I was supposed to attend today. But Natalie Kho performed brilliantly for us all there, presenting The White Phoenix Tales and everything we have done for Russian culture in Paris in the last few years.

And I’ll be at the roundtable dedicated to the avant-garde on 26 September! Come and join us. Despite all these twists and turns, life is beautiful and wonderful, the festival is wonderful, and the people here are nice. And I’m so happy that all these lively meetings exist in our lives again, that I’ve almost forgotten about the fatigue and I am waiting for Psoy Korolenko’s performance!

Thanks to the organizers for the joy of the meeting and for the fact that we are all here today.

Writers of The White Phoenix litclub: Olga de Benoist, Tatiana Raevskaya, Natalie Kho
Preparations for the official opening of the Budva Festival. Dukley Gardens
Olga de Benoist in airplane

Natalie Kho (artist, The White Phoenix Literary Club coordinator)

September 24, 2021 (FB post)

The Phoenixes at SlovoNovo 2021 in Montenegro. Today our little landing party of three (Tatiana Raevskaya, Olga de Benoist and Nathalie Kho) landed after all at the Slovo Novo Russian Culture Festival in Montenegro. We took part in the round table “Russia’s borders don’t end anywhere”. dedicated to Russian cultural life in European cities. We told them about the Phoenixes, the history of the club, our events and books. And of course we invited everyone to our club meetings! Thank you to our old and new friends for your interest and support ❤ and keep discovering new things on The Slovo Novo. 😁😁Photo with Tatiana Raevskaya, a writer from St Petersburg.

Olga de Benoist

September 25, 2021 (FB post)

A lovely morning in Budva on the shores of the blue-blue sea. Me and my children (books). It’s so nice when everything in this world comes into balance, when the sun and the sea and the sea of creative people. Today is the extension of the SlovoNovo festival, a forum for creative people from all over the world. I really want to go to a performance by Ulitskaya, go for a swim and visit an old monastery. The programme is minimal.

Natalie Kho

September 27, 2021

SlovoNovo Day 2. Blue water, St Stephen, risotto with seafood delicacies, poetry by Ludmila Ulitskaya and Yuliy Gugolev. And in the end – poetry slam 😮 – for me an unknown, scalding, extremist, bleeding, exploding with pain and rage performance genre. Not a day – a rattling cocktail

Olga de Benoist

September 26, 2021

Just a reminder that our Literary club “The White Phoenix” is participating in the international festival “SlovoNovo”, which is now taking place from September 23 to 30 in Budva. We participated at 2 round tables. At today’s one we talked about avant-garde. Is the avant-garde alive or will it live? What are the perspectives of the Russian avant-garde? It is nice to be in the company of smart and subtle people. Especially when at sea. Especially at SlovoNovo. Our literary adventure continues.

Natalie Kho

September 28, 2021

Phoenixes on SlovoNovo. Day Five. Exhibitions and Shakti’s Smile.

Today was exhibition day, well for me at least. I watched a whole series of exhibitions in a salvo. Irina Ozarinskaya, congratulations from the bottom of my heart on the exhibition. Mythology and colors.

And then there was Sergei Solovyov’s Shakti’s Smile. Text-River. Text-Time. Text-sense of an encounter with the Inner Being. Text-about blinding Seville and bitter oranges, about Love and Breaking Up. The text is a Snake biting its tail. Un grand merci.

Olga de Benoist (Results)

September 30, 2021

So that’s the end (for me) of the SlovoNovo forum. I departed this morning to Paris (I almost missed the plane again, the flight also had some incredible adventures, which I may have more to tell you about).

It’s been a very busy week for me. I feel like with this forum I’ve finally really come out of the creative quarantine where I’ve stayed involuntarily for the past two years. During that week I flew from inside to outside at such a speed that my mind could not keep up with the effort to comprehend and adjust to so many interactions, which I was, frankly speaking, not used to. I have met creative Russian people from all over the world and I still can’t grasp the immensity of it.

What I realized for myself at SlovoNovo. The world has changed, people have changed. I have changed. And at the same time we all remain the same. Art is alive, it’s the only thing alive in our strange times. And it makes no difference whether you are writing paintings, music, films, poems or writing your life – the main thing is to do it sincerely, fiercely and with all your strength.

Thanks to the organisers of the forum. It is not an easy task to bring together so many different creative people in the red zone (Montenegro was put on the red list by many countries, so not everyone could come). The immensity is inspiring. And when all those who wanted to come and couldn’t because of sanitary restrictions will be able to do so, it will be something even more powerful. We’re already looking at 2022!

What moved. When all these energies come together in one space, it creates a huge resonance in each participant. That’s what I came for and I got that resonance and creative charge in excess. Of course, not all of these energies are mine, and some seem alien. But you achieve true unity in yourself when you don’t exclude anything and open yourself up to everything. Which is what I tried to do.

Most of all, I was impressed by the writer Sergey Solovyov, who read excerpts from his new book, Shakti’s Smile. A brilliant text. The book is not out yet, but it already sounds in space as something subtle, sensitive, unimaginably native, a narrative of India and Europe, nature and civilization, external and internal spaces, dissolving into the timeless on subtle facets of sensuality and beauty, the timid attempts at mutual penetration and the unbearable rapprochement between man and woman, diffusion and form, spiritual search and eternal return, balancing between past and future, between the personal and the impersonal, between God and what replaces him for us – culture, civilisation, the mega-city.

There were other things too. Other poets and other writers. That lightly touched us, took us into their worlds.

Vera Pavlova with her poems that gave me goosebumps, an aesthetically pleasing video sequence of two childish adults creating their little creative universe, where marmots and music, right gloves on left hand, nature and man lost in the void, frost and sun, piano and dishwashing sounds, hourglass, eternal fortune-telling on daisy, with falling asleep in the future without present and past.

Delphinov which I didn’t know or suspect. Sensitive, intelligent, eccentric. Amazing. I understood why Natasha Kho loves him so much. How could she not? I wanted his book and there were no books left, so I got a CD as a present, as he said, for his birthday (which he has today!).

A touching text by Mikhail Shishkin, a writer with very clear eyes who everyone knows but I’ve only just discovered. I’ll be reading.

Artists and poets who do the new and the well forgotten old.

Ja Divijn is a band from my mythical youth, and here it is – at arm’s length, on scene, and all over the place. A jazz ghost from a reckless past. A piano that sounded completely new to me here.

And Handel, Handel from Kubrick in the SlovoNovo forum, performed by a brilliant pianist. Who would have thought I’d hear it here?

And today I’m home. In Paris. Tonight I’m sleeping. Tonight I’m falling asleep And tomorrow, life goes on. No longer on The SlovoNovo, it was so brilliant and almost gone. Somewhere deep inside, trapped in the memory, under my eyelids, it burns, it agonizes, like a fiery sculpture that I never saw, never waited for. Something is maturing in me. A new book, perhaps? Maybe a film? I want to create creative spaces again. We’re going to create creative spaces. There are so many wonderful things ahead. Both the Phoenixes and me.

The day after tomorrow I’m flying to Cairo. Then maybe Istanbul. And then maybe even further. And that’s a whole new page of my life. Incredible transformations, high speeds, coming home. I will tell you about that. I don’t know how I will come back from this new mythical journey, but I am looking forward to it.

In the meanwhile, sleep. And dream. About life… life, life!

Change in Belgrade before returning home to Paris

Olga de Benoist (@OlgadeBenoist) is a Paris-based author, photographer & blogger. She is the author of the book "The Age of Rain" ("Время дождя" (RU) or "O Choro da Chuva" (BR)), a collection of short stories about Paris, its music, dreamers, lovers & the rain. She also works on the art project "People & The City".

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